super mario bros 1993 big bertha
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Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Chosen One of the Day: Big Bertha from the Super Mario Bros. movie

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May 21, 2019

It always blows my mind that the much derided (and deservedly so) Super Mario Bros. film adaptation somehow boasts more fully-realized female characters than most mainline Mario games. Case in point: Big Bertha.

Now, you might be familiar with Big Berthas from Super Mario Bros. 3—they’re the giant Cheep Cheeps you find underwater. But throw all of that out the window. The Super Mario Bros. movie sure did!

In the New Brutalist dino-dystopia of Dinohattan, Bertha is reimagined instead as the punk bouncer of the Boom Boom Room. Brimming in red leather, spikes, and eye makeup, and boasting a bouffant, she’s arresting the moment she steps on-screen. She saves Mario and Luigi from being mugged by a little old lady by hurling her off a bridge, and then decides to steal the MacGuffin—er, meteor necklace—herself by blowing that particular popsicle stand via jet boots.

Honestly, that would be amazing enough, but we get even more when Mario and Luigi come back to the Boom Boom Room to steal her necklace. This, of course, can only be accomplished by Mario appealing to her sadistic side and dancing romantically to the soul stylings of Charles and Eddie’s “I Would Stop the World” (yeah, this movie ain’t your daddy’s Mario game).

Now, being familiar with how cinema treats plus-sized women of color, especially in the year of Our Lord 1993, I was bracing for the worst, but the worst never came. This moment is funny because it’s mildly smutty slapstick on Mario’s part, not because of her size or her open interest in Mario. In fact, Bertha gets to be a hero: when the club gets raided, she helps the brothers escape. When she exchanges a kiss with Mario, it’s not a joke about her misreading the situation; it’s actually kind of a lovely moment, because Mario sincerely thanks her.

As well he should, because Bertha is a gift. Where’s my Super Bertha spin-off?

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